February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
April 1, 2011
It is not impossible to go out and find pop music with a distinctly Christian message. The Contemporary Christian Music scene has plenty of artists who are doing just that. The medium however can be somewhat confusing. The sound of many songs seem drawn explicitly from the Top 40 list. It seems Christians want to listen to popular music without the negative messages, the sexual imagery, and all the other problematic material that goes along with popular music. And that should be celebrated in many ways. What we listen to, what we watch, do in fact form our thoughts and practices.
However, what we should not avoid are those artists who broach deeply spiritual themes and who have in some way or another managed to find a foothold in the current music scene. On the top of that list is U2. Bono is consistent in finding ways to wrap Christian content in their music. And Bono is not shy either about where his music is coming from. His is a faithful witness to the gospel. One cannot help but remember in one interview his comparing the karma of the world’s religions and the grace of Christianity.
There are countless others who weave those songs that speak to the spiritual longings of us all. Add to that list relative newcomers, Mumford & Sons. In 2009, their album Sigh No More was released. While not nearly as explicit as U2, one cannot help but hear the role religious themes plays on this collection. With its track “The Cave,” one might be tempted to think of Plato, especially with the reference to Odysseus and the Sirens’ song within. But with further listening, it seems this cave is not a reality wherein is seen a dim reflection of the true ideal world. It would seem possible at least that the cave the listener is being called out of is the tomb. The siren song is the song after all that leads sailors to their death. The listener should hear the call away from death to life. They sing:
But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again
So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand*
Mumford & Sons refuse to be superficial, sentimental or overly optimistic either. Throughout their album, they seek to enter territory where real questions of real people lie, in the midst of doubts and conflicting messages. In “Winter Winds” they sing:
Oh the shame that sent me off from the God that I once loved
Was the same that sent me into your arms
Oh and pestilence is won when you are lost and I am gone
And no hope, no hope will overcome
In many ways the songs on here are deeply spiritual, but their lack of explicit mention of whose spirit can be off-putting to some. What does it mean to “hold on hope” if that hope is not rooted in the God Christians confess. Can it be hope after all? But what if we took passages of scriptures, say some psalms or portions of Paul’s letters and just used them apart from the fuller context. The same thing might be said of them. If it weren’t for two mentions of Jesus, the entire letter of James would more akin to wisdom literature.
Implicitly, however these songs seem to resonate deeply with the message of the gospel and with the concerns of human beings as they seek the God who created all things. Perhaps then, Sigh No More is a modern collection of psalms speaking to our reality as it intersects with the God who redeems us all. In a February 2010 interview for the Guardian, Mumford describes the lyrics as,
a deliberately spiritual thing but deliberately not a religious thing. I think faith is something beautiful, and something real, and something universal, or it can be. We [gesturing to his bandmates] all have our separate views on religion, but I think faith is something to be celebrated. I have my own personal views, they’re still real to me, and I want to write about them.
Something beautiful, something real. A great summary of Sigh No More, rooted in faith for real life.